Key Point: Would your day be different if you treated each conversation with total care? When you really think about it, most relationships are built on a series of conversations. Life itself is a continuous series of discussions. So many things happen because of each verbal (and non-verbal) interaction. How we feel and act towards the other person or people involved in an exchange is dependent on how carefully we construct our language and the intent behind the listening and content delivery. It is primarily a matter of treating others and ourselves with respect.
Think about great conversations you’ve had. My belief is that a common element of the most gratifying exchanges is the feeling of being listened to. When your partners in conversation really cared about what you thought or said, and when you sincerely appreciated their thoughts and views too. I bet that all the people involved asked lots of questions with genuine consideration to the responses. Now think about the conversations that haven’t gone well. What characterized those?
I recently was introduced to someone over a business lunch. The entire exchange was about him. I asked him questions and off he’d go. He paused to gulp down his sandwich or wait to talk about himself some more. Frankly, I figured he had little interest in me and subsequently was not very invested in where our relationship went. Think about all those dinners you’ve been at where the person sits next to you, says almost nothing, and puts little if anything into learning about you. It is challenging not to conclude that this person is either socially inept and/or doesn’t really care about the relationship. It is a little like the person often sitting next to us on planes. Many of us don’t invest in conversations during flights, not because we are unfriendly but because we are likely not going to see them again.
- Although most conversations happen naturally as part of daily living, think about each one as a relationship builder to be cared for… Not just a “talk.” Ask yourself quietly how much the relationship moved forward based on the exchange you completed.
- Ask lots of questions to make sure you really understand the other person’s intent. When you are sincerely interested in their views, ask them for advice or insight.
- Be vulnerable and authentic. It is ok to be open about things you feel hesitant about, to be genuinely humble, and to have a self-deprecating sense of humor. We know people aren’t perfect. When you open up, often others do too. You make it safe for them to do so.
- Use language that is more open to outcomes than sounding totally definitive. Words like “might,” and “could be,” when explaining or taking a position, give room for more views and possibilities to be explored. Remember your view is only one perspective.
- Stop, breathe, listen, and speak when you have something to move the conversation and relationship forward. If you don’t have anything of value to add, it is ok to actively listen.
Careful conversations in the Triangle,